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How I Move Up a Level


Here’s a video I made about how I move from one level to the next on ChinesePod.

I also posted it on my personal blog.


Hi Elijah, Thanks for this helpful video. My question is: What do you do with 请问lessons? I really haven’t found them very helpful as the grammar is explained without any strong contextual link. Am I missing something important by not using them?


You read my mind Dorothy! A couple days after posting this, I thought, “I didn’t mention Qing Wen.”

Qing Wen is a show originally created to answer specific questions that popped up on the website or forum (or email). As such, they’re not actually lessons - nor are they designed to be. Previously, you could mark them “Studied” without it affecting the Progress on the Dashboard.

As Qing Wen “lessons” accumulated, it became more difficult to find ones that were level-appropriate, so they were assigned specific levels. The goal was to make them more accessible to the right people, but the unintended consequence is that when you hit “Studied” on a Qing Wen, your Progress thinks you’ve done a lesson. You haven’t.

I think Qing Wen’s are great (especially Fiona’s), but I always discourage people from hitting “Studied.” They’re a nice help, but they’re not a lesson.


Helpful reply. Thanks! By the way, I started studying Chinese a few years ago. I am now 76 years old. Anyone can learn new stuff.


Thank you a lot for your video, Elijah!

The ABFL method kind of blew my mind, actually. I started to study on ChinesePod some months ago and I have found myself struggling to choose a level because I feel stuck in a limbo between Intermediate and Upper Intermediate. Intermediate is easy, maybe even because I don’t really like that much English in my lessons, but Upper Intermediate is really challenging, I can barely understand anything when I try to listen to a lesson for the first time. Since I mainly listen to the lessons while sitting in the train or walking to and from work, this started to bother me, because I am not always in the mood to do such a big effort so early in the morning or late at night, maybe tired after a hard day at work. But this definitely might be the solution to my problem! Who said I need to study every little tiny bit of each lesson if I don’t find it necessary? I guess the kind of studying mentality I developed at university was making things too hard for me with no real gain.

Just a couple of questions: you recommended to study the lessons from 2008 and 2014. What’s really so different about them compared to the most recent ones? I started from the most recent, actually, simply because it is more intuitive to start there when first approaching ChinesePod Dashboard. I just switched the “Intermediate” and “Upper Intermediate” filters on and chose what I found more interesting. Is this something you personally wouldn’t recommend? Moreover, is there a quick way to have access to those lessons from PC and from the mobile app? I don’t know, some kind of filter? Please, don’t tell me I need to scroll all the way down to 2014!

Thank you again for your help and time, Elijah!


Great to hear from you!

Being “stuck” between two levels seems pretty common. This discussion between Jenny and John Pasden talks about that very normal state, and what to do about it. One of the things they say is:

“You don’t ‘finish’ Newbie and go on to Elementary. And it’s not a ‘cold turkey’ thing… You slowly start studying more and more elementary… You study Newbie less and less, and you naturally progress.”

The different eras of lessons have a lot of differences for me. One is that with those older lessons I can “feel” a unified purpose for each level. For example, in that same podcast, John pointed out that the Upper Intermediate is not designed to teach discussion about abstract concepts, but rather to build up technical vocabulary. Then, once you have that vocabulary, the Advanced level introduces how to talk about abstract concepts and deeper cultural issues. I feel like in the later lessons, those kinds of clear distinctions just aren’t there, making it harder to make progress.

There is a pretty easy way to bookmark lessons from particular time periods. I show how to do that in the first three minutes of this video.


Thank you a lot for your time and help, Elijah, I really appreciate it. I’ll check out the video you say immediately!